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How Mobile Apps Are Reinventing the Worst of the Software Industry 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-want-to-rate-your-app-and-i-don't-want-to-tweet-about-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Overflow, says the mobile app ecosystem is getting out of hand. 'Your platform now has a million apps? Amazing! Wonderful! What they don't tell you is that 99% of them are awful junk that nobody would ever want.' Atwood says most companies trying to figure out how to get users to install their app should instead be figuring out just why they need a mobile app in the first place. Fragmentation is another issue, as mobile devices continue to speciate and proliferate. 'Unless you're careful to build equivalent apps in all those places, it's like having multiple parallel Internets. "No, sorry, it's not available on that Internet, only the iOS phone Internet." Or even worse, only on the United States iOS phone Internet.' Monetization has turned into a race to the bottom, and it's led to worries about just what an app will do with the permissions it's asking for. Atwood concludes, 'The tablet and phone app ecosystem is slowly, painstakingly reinventing everything I hated about the computer software industry before the web blew it all up.'"
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How Mobile Apps Are Reinventing the Worst of the Software Industry

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  • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:03PM (#46338049) Journal

    A whole new paradigm. You just don't get it! There's no down side etc. etc.

  • App permissions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sinij (911942) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:03PM (#46338061) Journal
    You don't need to guess what app is going to do with these permissions, you just assume it will abuse it, because it has no reason not to. What missing is ability to push back against unreasonable permission requests without having to root your device. Both Apple and Google dropped the ball on this.
    • You say that as a person who would understand and care to do that(i.e. someone who could use the permissions from the developer side). You do not represent the normal user, who if they care at all, will at best go "Ahhh, don't use that"

      • by berj (754323)

        There's nothing to understand or care about.. If an app wants access to my contacts it needs to ask me. If I say no then it doesn't get access. If I say yes.. it does. The answer from the first request is remembered. If I want/need to change my answer I can go into settings and do so. But by default an application exists in a state of "can't access anything until the user approves".

        I'm not sure how much easier it could possibly get for a user.

        My main complaint is that there aren't enough categories. At the

        • Let's hypothetically say you support your app(yeah, I know, basically unheard of on phones, but bear with me). Do you really think you're going to be able to do a reasonable job of it, if you don't know which functions of your app users have enabled permissions for.

          Ooops, your app crashes for the 3% of users who turn of contact searching. It's your fault, because you didn't tell them it was essential(except you did, and they disagreed)

          • Re:App permissions (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent...jan...goh@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:19PM (#46338973) Homepage

            The assumptions are simple: assume that the user hasn't given you permission to do anything. Your app may be useless at that point, but it shouldn't crash. It should just not do anything. If the user then asks the app to search their contacts, you ask them for permission to the contacts again. It happens all the time in iOS apps.

          • Do you really think you're going to be able to do a reasonable job of it, if you don't know which functions of your app users have enabled permissions for.

            You're obviously not a coder. Checking for resources before accessing them, dealing with exceptions when expected resources aren't there, and handling error codes appropriately are normal programmer activities on any platform. On iOS it's simpler than most because there's only a limited number of resources that may or may not be available.

            Ooops, your app crashes for the 3% of users who turn of contact searching. It's your fault, because you didn't tell them it was essential(except you did, and they disagreed)

            That's not how it works. Using contacts is never essential. Even if the app does nothing but display contacts, then the expected behaviour is to run, but display a message

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:31PM (#46338385)

      What missing is ability to push back against unreasonable permission requests without having to root your device.

      Apple did a great job with iOS in that regard - not at launch, but at this point it's pretty good. You are asked AT THE TIME THE APP TRIES TO ACCESS a resource like your photo library, contacts, location etc. if you want to allow it.

      If you change you mind later, you just go into privacy settings and control access to any of those items to shut down access by apps you might suspect are misusing things (or you know they are, as can be the case with push notifications)

      I agree with your point, but Apple has done a good job so far in helping users push back to whatever degree they desire.

    • Re:App permissions (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dixie_Flatline (5077) <vincent...jan...goh@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:32PM (#46338403) Homepage

      How did Apple drop the ball, exactly?

      I've had apps ask me permission for my GPS, microphone and photos all individually. I've rejected allowing all those things at various times for various reasons with no problems. I've gone back and given permission later, or denied permission when I didn't want that functionality any more. Every app that requires location services asks me individually at the first moment it tries to use them if it's okay. If there's a flaw with the Apple system, I suppose you could say that it's that you get the same questions over and over again, or that apps that absolutely require certain permissions (photo editing apps need access to your photos, duh) can't get them automatically. (But honestly, I don't mind answering that question.)

      I test-drove a Nexus 4 for a week, and it really grated on my nerves that I had to give permissions at time of download, couldn't revoke any of them, and had to take it on faith that the app would play nice. No. Ask me for each individual thing, ask me each time.

      • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:53PM (#46338651) Homepage Journal

        Ask me for each individual thing, ask me each time.

        I thought such "mother may I" behavior was exactly what Apple's Mac commercials made fun of. (Cancel or allow? [youtube.com]) Condition people to just click OK, and they'll OK anything, no matter when or on what platform.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Ask me for each individual thing, ask me each time.

          I thought such "mother may I" behavior was exactly what Apple's Mac commercials made fun of. (Cancel or allow? [youtube.com]) Condition people to just click OK, and they'll OK anything, no matter when or on what platform.

          The important distinction is that iOS asked for your permission when the app wants to do something sensitive, whereas Windows asks for you to confirm an action you took. Psychologically this is the difference between "Billy wants to punch you in the face. Allow/Deny", and "Are you sure you want to insult Billy's mother? Continue/Cancel"

          • The important distinction is that iOS asked for your permission when the app wants to do something sensitive, whereas Windows asks for you to confirm an action you took

            Windows Vista asks to confirm elevation when the user does something that Windows considers "sensitive", such as modifying a folder that the administrator owns, installing hardware drivers, or anything else that affects more than one user. Windows 7 fixes some of this by adding buttons with the shield icon that elevate without needing to confirm. I guess part of the difference lies in what each OS considers "sensitive". Is there a comprehensive list of what iOS considers "sensitive" that isn't behind Apple'

        • by Tom (822)

          There are right and wrong things to do these questions.

          Apple has generally gotten them right. Microsoft has almost always gotten them horribly wrong. Google is hit-and-miss.

          If done well, people don't get conditioned and actually answer the question correctly. My experience with my iPhone is that it's done very well. I have, however, met someone on the street once who didn't realize that the Maps application works a lot better if it can know where you are. :-)

    • That's the Uninstall option.

      I haven't missed a single app yet that I rage-uninstalled in retaliation for them pushing me an unwanted notification.

    • AOKP has App Ops. I'd prefer a more active solution, but it's great for removing GPS and contact requests from flashlight apps.
  • by Kensai7 (1005287) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:07PM (#46338115)

    The question is... what can be done to stop and revert this horrible trend? Developers need to further promote current and future web browser standards so we can have all the fancy functionality of the apps in a web page. It doesn't always work, but it should be the long term goal.

    • by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ofni.hsifcitsalp>> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:11PM (#46338163)

      98% of the functionality of these apps could have been done in a web page in '98.

      • by Kensai7 (1005287) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:19PM (#46338223)

        I suppose 98% of the rest 2% can be done today in HTML5. :)

        • by tepples (727027)

          I suppose 98% of the rest 2% can be done today in HTML5. :)

          I don't see how. Mobile web browsers still tend not to support getUserMedia (camera and microphone access) or WebGL (3D graphics).

          • I thought desktop browsers were holding back the adoption of WebGL?

            Or rather not the browsers themselves but blacklisted drivers.

        • Re:What can be done? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Trepidity (597) <.gro.hsikcah. .ta. .todhsals-muiriled.> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:46PM (#46338575)

          Often it is done in HTML5 too, by the same people. I've uninstalled several websites' apps because the apps were actually less featureful, slower, and buggier than just using the website in a mobile browser. A common organizational reason for this is when the mobile app was contracted out to a third party dev shop as a one-off. When it first came out, it might've been on par or better than the mobile site. But then it never gets updated, because it was just an outside contract job, while the website is actually maintained and quickly surpasses the bitrotting mobile app.

        • agreed (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Virtucon (127420) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @06:00PM (#46339407)

          Yeah, most of these apps are just facades for what can be done with a browser but they also have built in tracking and other tools to scavenge more data off of your mobile device than a browser would usually allow. To be honest, I believe that is the big reason for all these little do-nothing apps that have popped up especially the immensely popular "ring tone apps" in the Google Play Store for example. Yes we've had the same kind of annoy/malware for desktop apps that embed Firefox, IE etc. but the installation process is a bit more involved than going to a play/app store and clicking install. I'd also liken it to what's happening on SourceForge with this new Dice installer crapware that puts other shit on your system. It's not only bad practice but it also makes me distrust the software I'm trying to install. Google does the same kind of things with Chrome / Google Drive etc. and even after you uninstall them you'll still find little updaters and other crapware that Google leaves around that you have to manually go and remove.

        • Re:What can be done? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jareth-0205 (525594) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @06:09PM (#46339483) Homepage

          I suppose 98% of the rest 2% can be done today in HTML5. :)

          Yup, just as long as you are willing to give up any sense of decent UI, performance, etc. Mobile devices are shockingly bad at rendering HTML at a good rate, and I'm yet to see a HTML5 page that properly scales to different screen sizes, has good information density, or works properlly offline.

          That's not to say these things aren't possible, but I have to assume that they are very hard because nobody seems to be doing them.

      • by labnet (457441) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:28PM (#46338359)

        98% of the functionality of these apps could have been done in a web page in '98.

        Exactly this. I'm so sick of going to some special interest forum, only having the page hijacked by, would you like to install our app. Wtf. Apps are becoming like web urls, but not as convenient.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      "what can be done to stop and revert this horrible trend?"

      Angry mob finding developers and beating them with soap in a sock will certainly do it.

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:22PM (#46338271)

      Developers need to further promote current and future web browser standards so we can have all the fancy functionality of the apps in a web page.

      As a developer, why would I want to do that? Lots of people will pay for an app. Almost no one will pay for a web page.

      • by Kensai7 (1005287)

        Web pages can have privileged (behind paywall) content as well.

        • ShanghaiBill's point, as I understand it, is that end users are more willing to pay for "privileged (behind paywall) content" if it happens to be delivered through a dedicated mobile application than through a web page in the built-in browser.
          • by Kensai7 (1005287)

            Are more willing because it is a rarity to have a well-designed mobile page that has the same functionality as an app, even if today's standards allow it. I blame both developers and manufacturers of OSes (Apple, Google, etc) for that. In order to lure customers to their systems they privilege functionality that otherwise could be universal.

            • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:13PM (#46338885)

              Are more willing because it is a rarity to have a well-designed mobile page that has the same functionality as an app

              I very much disagree. People are unwilling to pay for even good quality web content. They are quite happy to pay for crappy apps. It is not about giving people "quality", but about giving them a sense of ownership.

              • That and the fact that an "app" is more likely than a "website" to have a working offline mode. This is important especially to tablet owners (who may not have a cellular data subscription at all) and to frequent flyers (who spend a lot of time in airplane mode).
        • by unimacs (597299)
          Which most people will not bother to pay for. Like it or not, people think of nothing of paying a few dollars for a mobile app but feel web content should be free.
      • by N0Man74 (1620447)

        Developers need to further promote current and future web browser standards so we can have all the fancy functionality of the apps in a web page.

        As a developer, why would I want to do that? Lots of people will pay for an app. Almost no one will pay for a web page.

        As a user, why do I want to buy an app to mostly work like a browser bookmark?

        • As a user, why do I want to buy an app to mostly work like a browser bookmark?

          Beats me. But millions of people are willing to do exactly that.

    • This is what a bubble feels like to users; to dispassionate observers, the similarities to the 1997-1999 period are striking with respect to the hubris of software writers/producers/peddlers. The general public does not like to be so coerced, and, eventually, use some relatively minor but well-publicized event to abandon the scam.

      Someday, abandoning apps and maybe the internet itself will seem cool to youth. Why not a network made up of only known friends? It would be the ultimate clique -- a paradise fo

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I think that mobile has been re-inventing the worst problems, and it's not just because of the apps. Getting an upgrade for an Android phone doesn't happen very often, sometimes never depending on which phone you got. Every phone from every different manufacturer has different features and completely different UIs, even if it runs the same operating system. I haven't had to reboot my computer in months (other than updates), but I frequently have to reboot my phone. Run-away apps can be hard to pin down be
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      The question is... what can be done to stop and revert this horrible trend? Developers need to further promote current and future web browser standards so we can have all the fancy functionality of the apps in a web page. It doesn't always work, but it should be the long term goal.

      But then it runs into trends that conflict with goals of other people.

      See the DRM debacle the W3C was considering. The general solution was to not have DRM in the spec, but to force developers to "make an app" instead.

      And when de

  • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:10PM (#46338143)

    Like everything else in the world, there are multiple accepted standards, nerds rage, film at 11.

  • I simply don't install applications on Android that ask for abusive permissions, which pretty much puts my phone back into the stone age. I don't need the project right now of installing a root kit, tweaking non-standard security settings, then wondering whether the next glitch is something I have to fix myself.

    Net effect, so far as I'm concerned, is that the smart phone has not been invented yet.

    I've always considered the Brights movement [wikipedia.org] to be tragically misnamed (almost cringe-worthy) but at this point

    • Re:Bright Phone (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:16PM (#46338201) Homepage

      Google's fault for not allowing the USER to have control over permissions, I should allow the permissions, not the app.

      • I should allow the permissions, not the app.

        That was possible in Android 4.3 until Google pulled it when applications started crashing due to an unhandled SecurityException.

    • I simply don't install applications on Android that ask for abusive permissions, which pretty much puts my phone back into the stone age.

      Well why not own an iPhone then? What the hell is the point of having a smartphone unless you can take advantage of the world of applications?

      On an iPhone you can deny any app anything you like and it will still work just fine. Don't screw yourself out of the modern era for no reason.

      • Re:Get an iPhone (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:23PM (#46339019) Homepage Journal

        Well why not own an iPhone then? What the hell is the point of having a smartphone unless you can take advantage of the world of applications?

        Because iPhone owners can't "take advantage of the world of applications". For one thing, if I switched to an iPhone, I'd lose access to Wi-Fi network cataloging and troubleshooting apps like MozStumbler [slashdot.org] and WiFi-Where [wikipedia.org], which Apple forbids in the App Store [dvice.com] because it refuses to provide the required public API. For another, if I switched to an iPhone, running apps I developed myself would cost $748 extra for the first year for a second computer and a certificate and $99 extra for each additional year to renew the certificate.

  • What is truely awful is DLC or "in app purchases" Honestly writing a half assed app then extorting money from your users is the path of the scumbag.

    Dont be a scumbag developer.

    • by Cinder6 (894572)

      Some apps do it well. It's just unfortunate that so many do it poorly.

    • That or bugging your friends on Facebook (assuming you are on Facebook) about the app. I'd hold up Where's My Water 2 as an example here. The first Where's My Water was a fun game. I bought the full version and they even came out with additional level packs which you could buy. No problem so far.

      Where's My Water 2 comes out and it's advertised as free. Except, once you get to the end of the first area, there's a "gate" which you can only pass with three "keys." At first, I thought that the keys were i

  • by Alan Shutko (5101) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:19PM (#46338233) Homepage

    Of the complaints, most of them apply to the web as well.

    • Millions of pointless apps/websites: yep
    • Fragmentation into parallel and incompatible app worlds: No, web does have an advantage here
    • Paying for apps became a race to the bottom: Yep
    • When apps are free, you're the product: Yep
    • The app user experience is wildly inconsistent: On Web, the experience for a single site is consistent across different browsers, but there's hardly any consistency between apps. On a mobile platform, usually there is more consistency between different apps.

    The reason that mobile apps have been so popular is that in many ways they offer a better experience to websites. If Jeff wants more people to use the web instead, he should be learning from the successes of mobile apps and applying them to his websites. StackExchange has great content, but problematic UI, and it's got a really bad UI on mobile web. I'd love a more capable app version.

    • Fragmentation into parallel and incompatible app worlds: No, web does have an advantage here

      I don't think even this is true. I have THREE browsers installed (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) because often I find a site doesn't quite work right on one but will work on one or more of the others.

      As web developers lean on advanced browser features to become somewhat more app like, fragmentation is turning into a real issue.

      • Which web sites work in Safari but fail in Chrome? I'm trying to consider whether to switch to a Mac or not.
        • I don't use Chrome as my primary browser so couldn't say; it could be that would work for you.

          I have ClickToFlash installed on Safari, and some websites simply don't work that way - that is one problem. But at times the sites formatting is just kind of messed up in Safari.

        • by sjbe (173966)

          Which web sites work in Safari but fail in Chrome? I'm trying to consider whether to switch to a Mac or not.

          Not many. Plus you can get Chrome for the Mac so it's not like you have to choose one or the other.

          • by tepples (727027)
            My point was supposed to be that I can already get Chrome and Firefox on the computer I have, for just the cost of bandwidth. I'd need examples of web sites that work in Safari but fail in Chrome in order to have to switch.
    • StackExchange has great content, but problematic UI, and it's got a really bad UI on mobile web. I'd love a more capable app version.

      What do you think of Stack Exchange for Android 4 [google.com]?

  • We're fixing this (Score:5, Informative)

    by asa (33102) <asa@mozilla.com> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:21PM (#46338251) Homepage

    Firefox OS is trying to fix much of this.
    https://wiki.mozilla.org/Firef... [mozilla.org]
    https://developer.mozilla.org/... [mozilla.org]
    The Web is the most successful platform of all time and we're leading the pack on bringing a the Web platform to mobile in a way that's integrated rather than fractured like the existing app store models.

  • Mobile app wisdom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by steveha (103154) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:29PM (#46338369) Homepage

    There's an old saying: To gain knowledge, add something every day; to gain wisdom, get rid of something every day. I'm not sure exactly how that is supposed to work (where does the wisdom come from?), but clearly you can choke your life if you accumulate too much stuff.

    And that's really true for mobile apps, which can choke your phone. Two years ago my wife's phone (Android 2.x) became unusable, and I discovered that she had installed five or six dozen free apps, and many of them had installed service daemons. (Why do workout tracking apps, cookbook apps, or lightweight games need daemons?) She made an effort to purge down to just the apps she needs.

    Even if you assume that the phone can handle all the apps, they still add chaff for you to sort when you are looking for the app you actually want to run.

    P.S. Jeff Atwood's rant was good, but he missed one of my pet peeves: I will click on a news story link in a blog or Slashdot or something, and the linked site will pop up a banner: Hey! Don't you want to install and use our mobile app? Why no, web site I have never heard of before, I really don't want to download and install your app. I just want to read the one story, and at the moment I'm reconsidering even that.

    • I think the wisdom comes from knowing what is necessary and what isn't. Elegance is always defined by the lack of complexity, not by the addition of it. That's why the best code is as pared down as it can be--it does the most with the least.

      It's an interesting saying; I've never heard it before. :)

      • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:14PM (#46338887)

        Elegance is always defined by the lack of complexity, not by the addition of it.

        Not necessarily. You can have something that is both elegant and complex. It's just more difficult to pull off. While as a rule of thumb you are correct that simpler does more often result in something elegant, elegance is not defined by simplicity. The two are independent concepts.

        That said I do tend to like Colin Chapman's [wikipedia.org] philosophy of "simplify, then add lightness". Minimalism can be a very beautiful thing.

    • by steveha (103154) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:39PM (#46338489) Homepage

      Now I feel silly. In my P.S. I said he missed my biggest peeve, when actually he started his rant there. By the time I reached the end of his rant, I guess my tiny brain had already forgotten it.

      So feel free to point at me and laugh. Sorry about that.

    • by houghi (78078)

      Even if it is a website I visit each and every day, I do not need an app for one specific website. Provide me wth a rss feed and mobile friendly layout and I am good to go.
      Many others would not even need a rss feed. Just a different CSS when a mobile app is loaded and I am good to go.

      At home I just do my banking via a website. Why would I need an app on my phone? Why not the same website? They already have that developed. They already have people working on that. It works on multiple platforms. Just use tha

      • At home I just do my banking via a website. Why would I need an app on my phone?

        So that you can use the phone's camera to scan the front and back of a paper check or cheque that a friend or relative has given you.

        Why not the same website?

        Because mobile web browsers tend not to offer camera APIs.

    • by tsqr (808554) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:18PM (#46338959)

      There's an old saying: To gain knowledge, add something every day; to gain wisdom, get rid of something every day.

      "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that a tomato doesn't belong in a fruit salad."
      --Miles Kington

  • Let's Recap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Cat (19816) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:33PM (#46338415)

    First, big software decided that the PC needed to become a television. Otherwise they would fail in their attempts to get your ass back on the couch.

    By then, the PC was too far gone, because the heathens were actually building their own operating systems and programming languages! The horror! We might lose control of the demographics!

    They needed a replacement for the PC, so they invented the smartphone. The smartphone is inferior to the PC in almost every way:

    1. Slower processor
    2. Less memory
    3. Almost no storage
    4. Slow, shitty, unreliable web access
    5. Can't be physically networked with anything at all ever
    6. Smaller screen
    7. Atrocious, shitty, primitive, clumsy touch interface
    8. Can't easily make use of any existing peripheral: printer, mouse, larger monitor, external storage, network
    9. Fuckall battery life
    10. Massively expensive on a capability-to-price ratio
    11. Annoying royal pain-in-the-ass noisemaker
    12. Makes everyone look like a jackass staring at it

    Naturally, the general public, after being fed a thin gruel of third-rate marketing hype, decided to pitch 30 years of advancement overboard and charge-card their new tamagotchis by the Chinese freighter-load. They gleefully accepted the shitty web browsing, shitty interface and shitty battery life because they could compile monuments of narcissism in the form of 1000-entry selfie albums.

    But that's not the best part!

    You see, now that the manufacturers have TOTAL CONTROL of the platform (which is something they desperately wanted with the PC but couldn't engineer, despite Microsoft's roaring campaign of evil in the 1990s) they can tell you what programming language to use, what kind of apps to write and how much money you can make from them.

    They have won. If you make apps, you are a defacto unpaid employee of Apple and/or Google doing exactly what you are told under pain of being kicked off the platform forever.

    The rest of you spend all day staring at a 2x3 screen. I think we know what that makes you.

    The results were rather predictable. Real programming and real programming languages have been largely exterminated. The idea of writing C on a development-centered operating system with a full suite of modern capabilities is dismissed by ignorant immature amateurs in favor of some kind of flimsy broken scripting language or worse.

    Programmers have no real access to the hardware. Your code is trapped forever, and is useless anywhere else, since its built only for that platform's API. Its also pretty much guaranteed to be obsolete in three years because there will be no hardware to run it.

    So we've made the software, the hardware and the developers disposable, and all the money goes to the phone makers, who are the only ones allowed to make anything of any real value.

    The whole country staring at a screen which only displays what they want it to display. (The Internet is next)

    Exactly the way they wanted it.

    • The smartphone is inferior to the PC in almost every way

      For real users, you have that backwards. For the technical elite what you are saying makes sense. Lets go over your points:

      1. Slower processor

      More like FAST ENOUGH processor. For what most people do, the processor on a smartphone is now FAST ENOUGH to do the same things. .2. Less memory

      ENOUGH MEMORY. If you can edit video and photos and write documents on a smartphone, it obviously has enough memory for most people.

      3. Almost no storage

      32GB is quite

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by The Cat (19816)

        You are relentlessly confusing my comparison. I am squarely comparing the PC to the smartphone. Not phones to other phones.

        Your primary excuse seems to be that a smartphone, which is slower and less advanced than a PC, is "good enough." If that were true, then the PC would have stopped advancing in 1998.

        Your other excuse is that "people are buying them" therefore they are good, which is pure dumbass.

        When the smartphone was invented, there were more than one billion PCs on the planet. The notion that nor

      • by tsqr (808554)

        You probably don't realize it, and most likely won't agree, but your post is not a refutation of a single point made in the comment to which you were replying. Rather, it's a list of excuses that tries to rationalize the shortcomings of the smartphone platform because of its popularity. That stylishly trendy expensive disposable object in your pocket is popular mostly for the same reasons that masturbation is popular.

    • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:29PM (#46339101)

      The smartphone is inferior to the PC in almost every way:

      Really? It fits in my pocket, lasts longer on battery than my laptop, it weighs (far) less, it is a phone, I can take pictures with it, it doesn't require a mouse or keyboard to be useful, I can use it to navigate places where I can't take a PC, I can take it places I would never take a PC, I don't have to worry (much) about malware, it wakes up instantly, I can run with it and listen to music while running, it has sensors like accelerometers that aren't very useful on a PC and certainly never are standard. "Inferior in every way"? Pul-leeeze.

      BTW most of your points about why it is "worse" are either complete nonsense or only make sense if you foolishly think that a smartphone should be a PC. If you want to use a PC, go right ahead. No one is standing in your way.

      (oh and if you're thinking of making some snarky "drink the cool-aid" remark, just go ahead and stuff it)

    • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:34PM (#46339161)

      That was... beautiful *sniff*

      sent from my Google Nexus 4

    • Re:Let's Recap (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:48PM (#46339297) Homepage Journal

      By then, the PC was too far gone, because the heathens were actually building their own operating systems and programming languages! The horror! We might lose control of the demographics!

      Wait a second. What operating system stole PCs away from Microsoft Windows? In order for what you say to make sense, Microsoft would have had to have lost control over PCs (which still hasn't happened) to Linux, and so in turn Microsoft decided to dominate Smartphones instead, which also has not happened. Smartphones actually caused the opposite. It wrested control away from Microsoft to an OS created by a competitor (iOS), and another OS that is open source (Linux / Android). Second, what programming languages? Most all serious software written for Windows is through Visual Studio (C++ and later C#), although to a very small extent (as in a tiny, tiny percentage of Windows Apps) Java applications. No other programming languages represent much more than a footnote in the millions of Windows applications.

      In other words, it's exactly the opposite of what you said.

  • There may be a lot of mobile apps, and most of them may be bad, but unlike web apps, the goods one aren't clunky, fragile shit.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:34PM (#46338435)
    The proliferation of unnecessary apps on tablets and phones. There are maybe 2-3 dozen businesses and sites I interact with enough each year to warrant their own app. The rest I interact with infrequently or they're not a high enough priority (e.g. Slashdot) that I need to be constantly updated to their latest offering and features (e.g. Beta).

    The web browser model works really well for these low-priority interactions. I install an app on my computer for the important stuff (financial management, photo editing, code development, word processor, etc). But for all the not-so-important stuff, I install one app - a web browser. The browser then lets me make bookmarks to all those different low-priority sites.

    But in their zeal to monetize and get a hold of your data, most companies have crippled or entirely eschewed the mobile browsing experience in favor of their own custom app. Many sites detect my browser is on Android and redirect me to crippled or dysfunctional mobile versions of their sites, when my phone is more than capable of using their full site. The result is whereas I have about 40 programs installed on my laptop and about a thousand bookmarks, I have over 250 apps installed on my phone and only a dozen bookmarks. Management of those apps is starting to become unwieldy as every day a half dozen of them report that they need to be updated.

    I yearn for the days when all the less important stuff was just a bookmark in my browser. The browser was like a hub, and the connections between me and these less-important sites were like spokes. The hub-spoke model vastly decreased the number of spokes at my end. But by favoring or requiring dedicated apps in mobile space, these companies/sites have increased my workload and overhead by forcing me to maintain a lot more direct routes to their business/site.
  • Mobile developers, don't make awful shit. Please.

  • I totally agree that there are many apps that shouldn't exist, that are really websites (and that goes down to the fact that a lot of them are just wrapping browser pages).

    But that doesn't mean that native apps do not have a good purpose as a complement to websites, in the same way that some websites have also built native applications. Sometimes you want to build something that needs enough UI or low level access to hardware, that a web app just isn't as good.

    Mobile apps work when they are focuses and do

  • by thecombatwombat (571826) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:43PM (#46338531)
    To paraphrase something a friend once said to me: "There was a time between 'AOL keyword [thing I'm interested in]' and "Search the App Store for [thing I'm interested in]' when the internet was a pretty cool place.
  • and people were ripping on them for that, demanding that they open the platform up for native apps. Which of course they did.

    You have to understand that from a user perspective a native app is often preferred to a web app. Within a web app, access to hardware features is limited and so is storage of local data. However there are ways to leverage web development knowledge and skills when creating native apps for mobile devices.

    Does the current situation complicate things for people who want to deploy
    • by tepples (727027)
      True, technically nothing stops me from creating a web application, but error messages stop me from actually running it: "This web browser does not support the Stream API" and "This web browser does not support WebGL".
  • by wcrowe (94389) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @04:52PM (#46338643)

    PHB: "We need an app!"

    Developer: "To do what?"

    PHB: "Well, I'm not sure. But we need an app. [Some other company] has an app. We need one too!"

    Developer: "We could just create a mobile version of our website."

    PHB: "But that wouldn't be an app. We need an app!"

  • Mobile versions of web sites that "helpfully" add an overlay that reappears every time you scroll, blocking up to 40% of scarce real estate, which you cannot close, or piece of shit mobile sites like Washington Post that put up a smaller circle right in the middle of the fucking text, these programmers, who would be ashamed to show their face in 1978, should have their mother fucking brains splattered against a wall.

    Die like pigs in Hell!!!!!

    • Mobile versions of web sites that "helpfully" add an overlay that reappears every time you scroll, blocking up to 40% of scarce real estate, which you cannot close, or piece of shit mobile sites like Washington Post that put up a smaller circle right in the middle of the fucking text, these programmers, who would be ashamed to show their face in 1978, should have their mother fucking brains splattered against a wall.

      Die like pigs in Hell!!!!!

      Seriously. Every fucking mobile site ever is trash.
      How about you just give me the full fucking site and my browser will fucking handle the details? Maybe I'll need to zoom in or pan horizontally instead of just vertically, but it's still a million times better than dealing with "mobile" or "responsive design" horseshit.

  • by jgotts (2785) <jgotts@nosPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:03PM (#46338749)

    I strongly disagree with the poster. We are in the best period of mobile apps, not the worst. During this period programmers are learning what can be done in the mobile environment and what can not be done well. The Android and Apple mobile environments are very much an exciting, experimental playground right now. The major problem cited is that mobile apps are inefficient, and that they slow down your phone. That won't be much of an issue in a few years, as processors keep getting faster and phones start to ship with 64 GB or memory or more.

    Sure there are a lot of bad apps, but that's the point. Try out the bad apps, and learn what you should and should not be using your mobile environment for. Maybe what you originally thought was a bad app turns out to be quite useful for you. On the other hand, the most obvious mobile app might not be very useful. I make under 7 phone calls a week, but spend 4-5 hours per week using the Facebook app. At first I thought Instagram was fairly useless but today I use it more than Facebook. I don't fully know all of my use cases for my phone, but already it's an indispensible tool, and I find about 20-30 apps to be quite useful. Another 100 apps are marginally useful. The rest are as much an experiment for the programmers as for me.

    The issue with permissions is being worked on by the Android developers. It's a separate issue.

    In 10 years mobile apps will be quite stable. We'll have maybe 50 winners, and things will be quite boring.

  • 'The tablet and phone app ecosystem is slowly, painstakingly reinventing everything I hated about the computer software industry before the web blew it all up.'"

    Web blew it all up? Web sucks too.

  • TL;DR: "Apps" suck.

    Welcome to computer software in the 10s. We've got all of the shovelware and hype of the 80s, but on your phone! With modern flashy graphics!!!
    !If you want to get something done, you'll have to wade through a Mos Eisley of shit to find something useful.

  • by ebunga (95613) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:29PM (#46339097) Homepage

    The fun isn't over until you can get a quarterly subscription to a stack of DVDs or USB jump drives or something containing "100,000 of the best [platform] Mobile Apps" delivered to your door for the low, low price of $125 per quarter.

  • by morgauxo (974071) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @05:31PM (#46339121)

    It's not just the software industry it's the hardware one too.

    In the PC market open standards beat out closed propriety hardware a long time ago. With the Desktop PC we enjoyed the ability to connect nearly any peripheral regardless of the manufacturer of the device or the PC. Hardware was modular and pieces could be upgraded or replaced with ones from just about any other manufacturer. Because of standards across the hardware alternative software could be installed other than what the manufacturer originally included.

    I realize that much of this modularity would be difficult or impossible to implement in a cellphone-sized device. However, Imagine switching between Android, Maemo or Windows8 as easily as you can switch between Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, etc... on a desktop! Proprietary chips and locked bootloaders make this pretty much impossible. How about being able to plug just any USB (or similar bus) device into your phone and actually expect it to work?

  • Jobs was right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Wednesday February 26, 2014 @04:09AM (#46343361) Homepage Journal

    Steve was right that the iPhone doesn't need apps because it has the web and people should be writing web-apps.

    Well, he was mostly right. 90% of the Apps out there could be web-apps and you wouldn't need to have two versions (iOS, Android) and I could access them from the desktop.

    Instead, the opposite happened: Every other stupid forum tells me to install its app. Where... I can read the forum. Uh, what? When you tell me on your forum to install your app so I can do what I am already doing before you interrupted me with that stupid pop-up then someone somewhere had his brain turned off or he would've realized how utterly stupid that is.

    It's like stopping me in front of the grocery shelf in your supermarket to hand me a flyer that tells me that if I go to your supermarket, I can buy groceries there. Uh, yes, dumbo?

    The problem is the insanity called advertisement agencies. These people are not selling your product to your customers as they are trying to make you believe. Their product is not your product and their customers are not your customers. Their product is advertisement and their customer is you. As long as you will pay for it, they will sell you any crap they can get away with. And so they will happily repackage the website, forum or whatever else you already created and sell it back to you. And for some reason, people are dumb enough to pay for their own product.

    We can only hope that sanity will win in the end and product managers the world over start to kick out these parasites. I, for one, consider a pop-up telling me to install an app that allows me to view the website that I am already viewing as a surefire sign that your company is too stupid to spend money on. Or in simple terms: Want to drive me off? Tell me to install your app.

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